Gov. Rick Scott invited members of the legislative black caucus to lunch at the Mansion Tuesday and things didn't go too well. Everyone was polite and respectful, but the lawmakers voiced their concerns with Scott for recommending cuts to historically black colleges, requiring state workers to contribute to their pensions, reducing health care for the poor and even the fact that Scott has not yet appointed any blacks to run agencies.
Scott listened closely but was unyielding in most of his responses.
"I don't believe in quotas," he told Rep. Perry Thurston of Plantation, who pointedly asked the new Republican governor when he might appoint blacks to agencies or to judgeships. With Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, an African-American, seated across from him, Scott made a point of noting that he chose the former lawmaker because of her qualifications. "I didn't pick Jennifer Carroll because of the color of her skin. I'm going to pick the best people I can find," Scott said.
Thurston and Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, even asked Scott to stop using the term "Obamacare" for the president's proposed health care law, formally known as the Affordable Health Care Act, but he declined. "You know, when I'm on Fox, they never call it that," Scott joked. The one-hour session ended cordially with lawmakers appreciative that Scott gave them a sounding board. On Wednesday, the African-American lawmakers will announce the formation of a new web site to encourage blacks to apply for state jobs.
-- Steve Bousquet